Discussion: Relevant Setting: Cron of Writing
Lisa Cron Is a story coach and her book has this line in the title: Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the very First Sentence.
Premise: of her work
We use stories to learn about about complex human behavior, and thereby be better able to predict it.
People look for patterns in everything.
Context and Goals
Before building relevance into setting you have to make sure you know what the context is, and what’s at stake/the character’s desires and goals.
This is important because it determines the types of patterns the reader is looking, how they interpret information.
You need to know this so you can make sure the information you’re giving them is meaningful.
They need to know this so they can look for meaning in the information/story.
Literal Author Knowledge:
Marco is a big jerk, but since I’d rather die than be alone I better do everything he wants me to, even if these stilettos kill my feet.
Story translation and meaning
Marco and I walked into the courtyard, I saw my neighbor, Mabel, scurry into her apartment, quickly closing her door lest one of her cats slip out. How many does she have? Eight, nine? Yet she always looks so sad, as if she’s afraid even he cats don’t like her. There but for the grace of god, I thought, grateful for the weight of Marco’s arm around my shoulders, even if it means I have to walk faster to keep pace with him, which isn’t easy in stilettos.
Here we have setting, they are walking down the street, she sees the neighbor. She doesn’t describe the house, or the garden, in the fact the only thing she describes about her neighbor is the fact that she own lots of cats. But there’s more to it than that. Her deep fear manifest in how she reacts to the other woman.
The setting tells us something about the character, about the story, if we are looking. The patterns are there. It's not setting for the sake of imagery, the setting allows us to get deeper into the character.
“When my parents would argue I took refuge in my pink palace bedroom. There was mardi gras wallpaper on the walls and I would try to find the jester as I lay there listening.”
The first point has relevance to the character. A “pink palace” tells us she’s a girly girl, or that her mother is one and forcing that onto the daughter.
The Mardi Gras wallpaper doesn’t. It’s an extra detail, that doesn’t drive the story forward or deepen the character.
Yes it’s imagery, but it also slows the pacing of the story.
We talked about theme in setting and the movie The Shawshank Redemption.
The theme a contrast between hope and hopelessness
Robert McKee: avoiding didactic stories
You don’t just write a theme, you compare and contrast them.
The scene in the movie theater. In one shot we don't’ see the screen, but just the darkroom and the single flickering light of the projector. A literal light at the end of a dark space.
By putting theme into each of those setting, they became more relevant to the story. There were deeper patterns in all of them, and that is something brain loves.
We talked with Patrick Adams about indie publishing children's books. What he’s tried in marketing, what worked, and what didn’t.
He explains how to approach writing for a child audience and why he chose self-publishing. He walks through his formating process for a image focused book, and what tricks he uses to
What is a blurb?
- The summary, and copywriting that goes on the back of the book, or next to the cover as it appears on website
It is the most important part of the book. It determines your sales.
It’s also part of writing that writers spend very little time on.
Good ad copy gets people to click. A good blurb is gets them to buy, or sign up for the email. It determines where in the priority list your book goes. If they read it all [very important for free books, a lot of them never get read.]
This is also what establishes your conversion rate. We’ll cover this more in ADS, but it determines how much profit you make from an AD.
There are several different theories on blurbs, and I’ll say that none is better than the others. Some work better for different audiences, and working through each theory you’ll develop the ability to effectively condense your story.
All blurbs should be split tested and group tested. As I said before it’s the most important part of the book for determining sales.
Look at blurbs by authors writing in your genre. Books you’ve read so you can see what it is they are pulling out.
I recommend staying focused on indie authors, as traditional publishers focus on selling books in bookstores, where people will commit to reading more of the book.
Indie's tend to focus mostly on digital selling and so have highly developed blurbs to grab attention.
Use the words that are iconic to your genre and mood.
Top secret, infiltration, agent, operative
Mage, Necromancer, Elf, Elemental
Faster Than Light travel, solar system, galaxy
Think Batman: is a detective story, a superhero story, but also a horror setting [at least the comics are]
Do Not Reveal the ending in your question.
A lot blurbs will present simple "yes" or "no" questions that reveal details of the plot, or even the ending of the book. Don't do this. It's a hold over from a much earlier time in story telling, before the art of pitching had been refined. Remember the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons? They would do this all the time, and you immediately knew how it would end.
Will she ever find love?
Will he save the company?
Can she save her job and her love life?
Will they get over their pride and prejudice?
- I can answer all of these with one word, and give away the ending of the book at the same time. "Yes."
- Try a question that presents something the reader would have to read the book to know. Trying using "How" instead of "Will."
- "How will he stop the next Sky Fall Event?"
- Try a question that presents something the reader would have to read the book to know. Trying using "How" instead of "Will."
“In a world...
“A race against time”
There are many genre cliches that you'll need to identify as well.
Your characters are interesting
Bring them to life in the blurb.
“In 1938, a small crooked-legged racehorse received more press coverage than Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt or any other news figure.”
(Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand)
“stunning controversy that's spinning out of control” (Raymond Khoury, The Sign); “..never before seen revelations seem to be leading him to a single impossible and inconceivable truth” (Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol); “The mission is incredible. The consequences of failure are unimaginable. The ending is unthinkable.” (Matthew Reilly. Six Sacred Stones)[ from the Creative Penn]
"You have to over promise, because everyone else is." Daniel Kahneman, nobel prize winner in behavioral economics.
When everyone is using hyperbbole and you are not, you don't look like you're up to the standards.
Idea of setting.
Washington DC, Rotunda (Dan Brown, Lost Symbol); “from the Roman Coliseum to the icy peaks of Norway, from the ruins of medieval abbeys to the lost tombs of Celtic kings” (James Rollins, Doomsday Key) [The Creative Penn]
Call to Action
Something should tell them to buy
Use the words: Buy, Now, Because, and You if possible in the make up.
Buy When the Sky Falls because you want to know what makes a person believe a lie, and you want to know now. [When the Sky Falls]
Click now to begin your immersion. [Why You Were Taken]
Pick up this page turner today! [Underwood, Scotch, and Wry]
Buy The Dark Souls today to watch an ordinary teen become a superhero! [The Dark Souls]
Another proposed ending is stakes summary.
For the fate of the Galaxy lies on the Battlefield of Earth. [Battlefield Earth]
Visual appeal. Is it designed to make skimming easier?
Bold fonts, enlarged texts etc..
- When the Sky Falls
- Dark Souls
- Use Kindleperneur's tool to help you do this for Amazon
Quotes by people or organization saying how great your book is. This often when hyperbole will come out.
"The best debut novel I've ever read." Susan Strayer on When the Sky Falls
"A game changer." David Wright on When the Sky Falls
"Bendoski wright like Hemingway, not a word wasted."
Draft it, Group Test it, & Split Test it
- Many blurbs are first drafts with some copy editing done to clean up the grammar. Think about how many times you wrote your first chapter, how many drafts it had. You should do the same or more with a blurb.
- Once you have a good draft in each theory then take it to your group, get some feedback. Most likely the final will be a combination of the different ones you bring.
- Take your two best blurbs and split test them. If your book isn't out yet, split test them on your site.
Base blurb for Song of Locke: We will rework through each Theory
- While many know us as Joe & J, I've called Travis by his middle name to make differentiation easier as you read each of our attempts at the different types of blurbs.
Locke loves stories—they fill him with a longing he can never quite describe—but he’s not the sort of kid who actually lives adventures himself. That is, until a bloodthirsty band of marauders passes near his home and Picke, a musical sylfe, dares him to follow. In hopes of fulfilling his longing, Locke accepts the dare. This leads him on a quest where he must face snarling wolves, wield a magic blade, and risk his life to rescue a Goddess—a girl he hardly knows but who he can’t stop thinking about. In the spirit of Legend of Zelda and Peter Pan, SONG OF LOCKE portrays a detailed fantasy world, somewhat grittier than its forebears and drenched in human emotion. The tale has swordfights, witty banter, crushes, and even some subtle philosophy smuggled in. It’s an epic for everyone who loves good stories—for anyone who has longed for something that seemed forever out of reach. SONG OF LOCKE is also an artisan book—written, illustrated, and typeset by the author, a masterpiece handcrafted from beginning to end. The first 50k-word draft was written for NaNoWriMo in 2013. In November 2014, a crowd of Kickstarter backers provided the initial funding for publication (see kickstarter.jwashburn.com). It was published 4 August 2015.
JOE’S BLURB: All terrible things come in the night, thieves to be unseen, assassins to go unnoticed, and that's how our world started to end, at night, while everyone slept, and everything was quiet.Locke was the first to wake, the first to see. At least the first living thing, because I never sleep, and am only breath.
TRAVIS' BLURB: All terrible things come at night—while monsters move unseen and murders go unheard. And that's when our world began to end—at night, while the forest quietly slept. I never expected it, but I sensed the evil as it crept in, as a vengeful sorcerer strangled all of Elfland by permanently taking away our light. And I never expected Locke to try to save us. After all, he was just a boy. And, like me, he was afraid of the darkness.
4 Sentence method.
Sentence 1: hook and premise:
wakes up, but daylight never comes. Water and light are both gone.
TRAVIS' BLURB: It was the end of daylight, and as expected the people blamed each other.
Sentence 2: Who is the protagonist:
Locke is a young elf. Picke is his sylfe. Think Peter Pan and Tink or Link and Navi
TRAVIS' BLURB: Except Locke, the boy who was afraid of bugs.
Sentence 3: Who the antagonist:
evil sorcerer, demon wolves, wraiths, undead. (emperor, darth vader, storm troopers)
TRAVIS' BLURB: In his search for truth he discover a curse cast an Elfe outcast, preparing an army for vengeance
Sentence 4: What is the conflict/what is at stake?
A wraith killed Locke’s mother on night, and he’s terrified of them and darkness. It also makes him particularly protective of the girl who’s involved in the story.
TRAVIS' BLURB:As darkness remains and water dries up the entire Elfe society prepares for war against the only enemy the can find, themselves.
JOE's BLURB: How will a boy afraid of spiders, afraid the dark, afraid of adventure find the courage to save his people?
JOE's BLURB: (CALL TO ACTION) Buy Song of Locke now, because Legend of Zelda didn’t have enough story.
Cron on Blurbs: Context method
Part 1: Character and Context
JOE"s BLURB: All terrible things come at night—while monsters lurk unseen and murders perform dark deeds. That's when our world began to end—at night, while we slept. Not know that morning light would never come. Locke was the first to notice that the world was broken.
TRAVIS' BLURB: I never expected Locke to try to save us. After all, he was just a boy. And, like me, he was afraid of the darkness.
Part 2: Theme and mood
TRAVIS' BLURB: When adventure calls Locke is afraid of it. The same urging cost the tool needed to free his people, but he must go alone.
Question: How will Locke, the boy who is afraid of bugs, survive the Long Night of the Wolf and save his people from their own mistakes?
Part 3: Acts 1 & 2 (4 ACT model)
JOE'S BLURB: Locke simply wants an adventure for the day, but he stumbles into the key to saving his people. Now he carries both the weight and the curse of that responsibility. As the water dries up and people begin to die, Locke wonders how he'll even survive and then the secret fire needed to save his people goes out.
Author Society on Blurbs
TRAVIS' BLURB: One morning, in the forests of Elfland, the sun never rose.
TRAVIS' BLURB: Locke awoke to find the rivers and cascades flowing across the landscape had vanished.
TRAVIS' BLURB: When Locke brings a mysterious scroll to the Seer, the Seer asks Locke to join him in finding a magic sword that can break the curse on the skies.
TRAVIS' BLURB: It’s at times a lighthearted as the laugh of a sylphe and sometimes as heavy as death.
Their Sample: http://authorsociety.com/17-tips-how-write-blurb-sells
JOE'S BLURB: When Locke comes across the most fearsome army in the land, he find them slaughter by an unknown force. They had sought to end the cure of darkness, but now the duty falls to Locke.
TRAVIS' BLURB: When the skies of Elfland turn black with a curse, the most feared army in Elfland ventures out to break it. Locke, a boy who’s afraid of darkness, takes a dare and follows them only to find them lying in their own gore, massacred by a mysterious enemy.
JOE'S BLURB:Locke the boy who is afraid of bugs, afraid of wraiths, afraid of the dark stumbles on the scroll that could save his people. Now, he just needs to find the courage to do it.
TRAVIS' BLURB: Among the carnage, Locke, the boy afraid of bugs, afraid of wraiths, afraid of the dark, stumbles upon a scroll that could save his people. If he can find the courage to use it.
JOE'S BLURB: Picke, an elemental companion who is ever urging Locke to more Bold and Daring, but is too afraid to even touch a living thing.
JOE'S BLURB: When dark armies gather, and the last of the water in the world dries up Locke and Picke must overcome their fears and chase after something they hope is more than myth to save their people.
At the end of the best way to learn to write a great blurb is to just keep writing them. Remember once someone has clicked on your AD, they are already interested in your book. They've seen the cover, the number of reviews and total star rating, and the price. It is now your sale to lose with a bad blurb.
What is a split infinitive (sometimes called a cleft infinitive):
An infinitive is a simple “to” plus a verb [to] + [verb]
Example: to run, to jump
This is what is referred to as an infinitive, the idea of having a concept that combines these ideas roots in the Latin because in Latin and infinitive is a single form of a verb. It’s also why people brought the idea over to English because it’s a single word in Latin you literally can’t split an infinitive.
Splitting an infinitive is when you put something between [to] and the verb
Example: to boldly go where no man has gone before.
A Brief History
Middle English is when the language allows it to be split
1834 Letter to Editor to New England Magazine: “Used by uneducated writers”
Becomes the reference for why it should not be allowed in formal English.
1966 First style guide recommends using them in specific instances
1998 Oxford Grammar Guide allows split infinitives
Arguments about English: should it change and why.
There are several basic arguments the people use for argue for or against certain changes in the language.
First: Language should be like math: no flexibility
Math is flexible
If you multiply two negatives you get a positive
If you add two negatives you get a larger negative.
It’s a flexibility of numbers, depending what symbol you put between them. We call that context in English.
Language should by how it was: it shouldn’t change
What about words like:
Spam was initially a brand of canned meat
The word is now used to stuff that comes in your email
This words evolved because of the emotional impact, not the numbers.
Language is defined by the great writers of it, and reference what they have done.
Shakespeare used split infinitives
Root pity in thy heart, that when it grows
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be
Strong weak rhythm
Who dared to nobly stem tyrannic pride.
What we have here is using the split infinitives break up the descriptive words
Instead of ‘to stem nobly tyrannic pride’ burns splits the infinitive for clarity.
The Red Badge of Courage, by Steven Crane
He tried to mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle.
Also in Bram Stokers Dracula
Phillip Sidney, John Donne, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Coleridge, Emily Bronte, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry James and Willa Cather
Language should be like the language it comes from: Latin and Germanic references.
Earliest style guides referenced Latin guides because those were the only guides in existence.
Some people get stuck in their ways
Swearing in Obama
Split verbs: Presidential Oath:
I will faithfully execute
Chief Justice Roberts changes it because he doesn’t like the split verb, too much like a split infinitive:
I will execute faithfully: Obama doesn’t repeat because it’s off.
The Last Man on Earth: Carole miss corrects grammar
The first time she adheres the preposition rule, it works
Phil: "I promise you, there is nothing to be afraid of."
Carol: "Nothing of which to be afraid."
Phil: "I just said that."
Carol: "You can't end sentences with prepositions! 'Nothing of which to be afraid' is the proper grammar!"
Then she follows that rule when it doesn’t work
Phil: "What do you need that gun out for?"
Carol: "Don't you mean 'Out for what do you need that gun?'"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpEEKv0coe0 Split it for rhythm: weak strong
Split it for rhythm: weak strong
Linguist look at why split infinitives for appeared and why they have persisted
Their idea is that a because English technically allowed for a split infinitive without hurting clarity, they became used often enough because they allowed speakers to use a strong weak rhythm that is pleasing to the ear.
Strong/Weak: To boldly go
Weak/Weak: To go boldly
Child: I accidentally forgot to feed the hamster.
Parent: Well, you'll have to try harder not to "accidentally forget", won't you?
Clarity: split to make sure it’s connected to the correct verb.
"Who dared to nobly stem tyrannic pride."
What we have here is using the split infinitives break up the descriptive words
Instead of ‘to stem nobly tyrannic pride’ burns splits the infinitive for clarity. Ensure that ‘nobly’ is attributed to ‘stem’ and not ‘tyrannic pride’
When you unsplit an infinitive
Let’s look at a sentence and see what happens when you unsplit an infinitive. The basic question is ‘Where does the adverb go if you unsplit the infinitive?”
She decided to gradually get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
"Gradually" splits the infinitive "to get". However, if the adverb were moved, where could it go?
She decided gradually to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
This might imply that the decision was gradual.
She decided to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected gradually.
This implies that the collecting process was gradual.
She decided to get gradually rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
This sounds awkward, as it splits the phrase "get rid of".
She decided to get rid gradually of the teddy bears she had collected.
Trask considers this almost as unwieldy as its immediate predecessor.
Gradually, she decided to get rid of the teddy bears she had collected.
This might imply that her decision or the fact that she will get rid of her teddy bears is gradual. (From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_infinitive)
When you shouldn’t split it: if it reduces clarity
We should try to whenever possible avoid splitting infinitives.
We should try to avoid splitting infinitives whenever possible.
We interviewed Sarah Werner of the Write Now podcast. She talked about going full time, ghostwriting, and building your own platform to handle the constant changes to Facebook, Twitter and other platforms authors market on.
In her craft discussion we looked at how she adds sound to words helps bring the setting to life.
Using the audio Boom to publish fiction
When Sarah launched her audio drama it reached over 10,000 people. She noticed a similar impact when she moved her blog to a podcast. She talks about how to use the power of audio to expand your audience.
Evolving the Lie: Positive Character Arcs Part2
Evolve the Character’s belief in the Lie
The inciting incident or something near the end of the first character should shift your character’s belief about the lie. In Star Wars Luke learns from Obi-Wan that his father fought the empire alongside the old Jedi Knight. This influences Luke because he has always been interested in the rebellion, but now it feels like a family legacy. He father didn’t just fly freighters, he fought. It also introduces the idea that people are not honest about who Luke’s father.
Clear Up from Last Time:
Travis asked about the difference between Batman’s prolog approach to the wound, and P.S. I Love You’s inciting incident. The difference is what events kicks off the story. The prolog event is not why Bruce becomes Batman. It’s why he’s lost in life. He becomes Batman after being trained by the League of Shadows. He adopts some of their philosophy, but when asked to kill the thief. He refuses, killing many of the members, and destroying their headquarters in a fire. That is the inciting incident.
The character has a want and a need. The lie is a belief that drives them towards what they want. The truth will lead them towards what they need.
Dilemmas and the Lie:
Structuring character development and revealing it often hinges the use of dilemmas. We’ve covered these before in their different types:
Two things you want buy you can only have one
Two things you don’t want, but you have to choose.
A blend both choices have something the character wants and doesn’t want.
The dilemma serves to create a kind of checkpoint. Here we can see not only what the character chooses, but how they choose. It reveals their progress towards embracing the truth.
Star Wars: after being captured by the Empire Han Solo just wants off the ship, then he hears the words “princess, ” and it catches his interest. He has a choice. Stay focused on only escaping, or save the princess. Luke says “we’re not leaving without her,” and it forces Han to go along, but for a very small moment he hesitates on his ‘me first attitude.’
In the second act, the character is punished for acting in accordance with their lie. At the beginning of the first act the lie was empowering to them, but now, it only creates problems, a stumbling block as they work towards what they want.
As a result of these failures, the character evolves their tactics, creating the Try Fail Cycle.
A glimpse of life without the lie, and it’s pretty awesome. How to Lose a Guy in 8 Days … she spends the weekend with his family.
Scrooge gets a glimpse of his life if had married Belle
Midpoint Turn: for character Lie
At the midpoint the character begins to shift:
Han Solo is only in it for the money; until he meets princess Leia on the Death Star at the midpoint.
The mirror moment:
This is also called the mirror moment, when the character sees themselves in the mirror and now see the truth as a possibility to get what they want, instead of the lie.
This does not mean the character rejects the lie. It just means they now have two options for pursuing what they want [still not what they need]. ---
Star Wars: Han Solo thinks if he rescues the Princess he can get more money. Helping people, without the promise of money, but the possibility. It’s a shift.
They will continue to believe the lie, but begin to act in accordance with the truth (some of the time).
Post Mid-Point Lie
The character needs an opportunity to experiment on his new found truth, a chance where he is given a choice to act in accordance with the lie, or the new truth, and decides to go with the new truth.
It should be a debate and struggle to make this choice; a catalyst will lead him to make a choice based on the truth, not the lie.
This conflict in the character between the old lie and new truth is ripe for creating a dilemma in the character, and a great place for internal conflict. If you don’t have some of these in Act 2 Part 2, you need to look again.
In Plot vs. Character, Jeff Gerke calls this “vacillation escalation” as the character acts on truth, turns back to the back and forth and back forth until a catalyst or time crunch forces a decision, and action.
Great Example from K. M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs, In Toy Story Woody is helping Buzz escape from Sid’s place because he needs him to be accepted by the other toys, he doesn’t like Buzz and is still filled with jealousy, but he’s helping him out of selfish reasons. Woody is torn, helping Buzz hurts his “want goal,” but without Buzz, the toys will refuse to let Woody back in.
Contrast Your Character’s Before and After mindsets
Think of a problem and how they would approach it while believing the lie?
Think of how they would solve after accepting the truth?
The Intersection: the character reaches a similar crossroads as before, but makes a different choice. In the first half, he sees the homeless man and then throws his uneaten fast food into the garbage bin. In the second half, he sees the homeless man gives him the uneaten food, along with all the loose bills in his wallet.
This provides a dramatic representation of change and character progression.
The Great Dilemma: Want vs. Need
The great dilemma between the thing he wants and the thing he needs.
Harry Potter: wanted friends, to fit in, to belong and he found that at Hogwarts with Ron Hermione, but he has to leave them, not knowing if they will be okay. He wants to stay with them, but he has a higher calling. He needs to stop Voldemort.
Jeff Gerke on the Great Dilemma: “ [The protagonist] comes to understand both the promise and price of the two ways. He comes, in other words, to truly understand his choice... The moment … is not complete unless the hero understands not only what he stands to gain by choosing one option over the other, but also what he stands to lose.”
Readers know about positive arcs. They know deep down your protagonist will choose the ‘need.’ You can throw off their confidence by having a subplot/minor character choose the want.
Throughout the second half of the second act, beginning of the third the character is divided over the truth and lie. They want one but haven’t abandoned the other. This is developed in two ways. Interiority & choice dilemmas.
The character is uncertain about both the truth and lie. They vacillate back and forth. In the third act, they keep looking back, wondering if they made the right choice.
Example: Scrooge sees his nephew and the happiness of the Crotchet family, and he wants those things, but he hasn’t given up on his greed yet.
They have embraced the truth, but then they have a crisis of faith. A sudden rush of doubt a “What have I done moment” when the living the truth challenges them more than they thought, and they want to run back to their old life.
Once the character has embraced the truth, they need to have this new-found belief challenged. A situation arises that would make their life easier in the short term if they maintain the lie.
· Example: Scrooge wakes from in the morning, and for the briefest moment considers it was all a dream. He can go back to his old ways immediately. He doesn’t have to change.
· Example: In Cars, the media finds Lightning McQueen, and he can leave without fulfilling the terms of his court appointed punishment.
o When Lightning McQueen is despondent and missing his friends in Radiator Springs, he’s mocked by Schick for not being focused.
It’s best if this final attack on the lie is part of the climax, as in Scrooge, but it can be assaulted more than once, so make sure to save the greatest assault for the climax, or very close to it.
How will your character’s devotion to the new truth be challenged?
The Climax and Character Change [Positive Arc]
How does your character prove he’s changed? Is it high enough value for the character.
· Example: Lightning McQueen has brought his friends from Radiator Springs to be his pit crew, illustrating his change, but he hasn’t faced his great dilemma yet. That moment comes at the climax when Schick attacks King, putting him out of commission. Now, McQueen faces his great dilemma; win the piston cup, or help King. The high value of this moment tests the character change in McQueen.
How does the change help your character defeat the antagonist?
· Example: McQueen slams on his breaks before the finish line and helps King finish his race. He loses the piston cup, but the noble act changes the way everyone feels about Schick. He’s not celebrated for winning. McQueen is celebrated for the act of help to King, and Schick's victory is empty. McQueen’s loss is celebrated, and garners the support of everyone, from his friends to the sponsors.
Types of Character Arcs:
· Positive change
· Negative change
· No change, steadfast [world tries to force them to change and they refuse]
· Steadfast Character Example: Harry Potter vs. Ms. Umbridge – Harry is right, and never changes. He is steadfast.
o “The Main Character of a story does not have to fundamentally change their point-of-view. Some grow by maintaining their resolve against all odds.” -Narrative First
Focus on the Character lie: core for developing positive character arcs
K. M. Weiland gives the best explanation I've ever heard about character lies. They are like a tooth with a cavity. Most people hate the dentist and avoid it. When a tooth starts to go bad, we avoid dealing with it. We chew on the other side of our mouth, avoid crunching food and gum, and it can go on for years like this [Castaway] but the rot continues to build and get worse, and cause problems until eventually it must be dealt with.
The character lie is a manifestation of most people perspectives on life. We think to ourselves if only ... I lose some weight ... get that promotion ... make more money ... get married ... etc ... then we will be happy. Science has informed us that these things are not true, but we still hold to them, because we want something to make us happier. This is exactly what your character has, an 'if only' goal, that is based on a lie. Happiness does not exist in the 'if only', the character will find it when they face the lie, and accept the truth.
That truth will help him understand what he needs instead of what he wants, change his journey [mid-point turn, or all is lost catharsis].
Finding the Lie:
In life we ask 'why' in fiction, we ask 'what causes', the second is not a vague concept, but a specific event, a story.
Once you know the characters lie, dig into their backstory and create an event that caused that lie about reality to form.
The Lie develops out of survival needs and dilemmas. At some point we make a choice to do well in one aspect of our lives over another. We work too much and our relationship suffer etc… Your character had to make this choice at some point, and it created the lie so they could live with it.
Other words: the 'ghost' or 'wound' refers to the event that created the lie
The lie is sometimes called 'the secret'
Four Approaches to story Ghosts
- Early Introduction: Sometimes origin stories use a prologue to give the full details of the ghost or wound to the reader.
- Think about the beginning of any Batman series, we see his family killed in the opening scenes, or Krypton being destroyed.
- The slow leak. Little bits of back story are dropped in the hope of stirring the reader’s curiosity and lure them further into the story.
- Darth Vader is Luke’s father. The ghost of Luke's father and his connection to rebellion are hinted at throughout the series, slowly shifting the narrative each time Luke hears the story until he finally hears the truth from Vader.
- The flashback. This method deals with a focus on the lie up front constantly causing problems in the character's life until they are eventually forced to face what happened in a lengthy flashback, or dialogue.
- The Expanse: Holden was born and raised to save the world [his families ranch].
- Huntress Moon: back story of the killer.
- The Ghost is the inciting incident: This is a very different type of story where there is little focus on the backstory, and happy people have something terrible happen to them, and it breaks them.
- P.S. I Love You: They are happily married and he dies, and it breaks her. The lie develops then and there: she thinks she will never be happy again.
Deciding which is best will depend on your story and rely on feedback. In one of my writing groups a girl had a story where the Ghost was that the heroine was actually a pornstar, she also saw this as the big hook of the story. It was revealed in act 1, and didn't hook anyone. The early introduction uses the Ghost as a hook in the story. If the ghost doesn't hook readers you need to try a different method. As always feedback is key on finding what will work best your story.
Chunking the Ghost in a single chapter as an early introduction is an easy way to test the first method that doesn't involve a lot of rewriting. The same is true of the third method. So I recommend if your experimenting, try those two first. The second method is best approached by dropping your hint in a chapter and then getting specific feedback about it. If it doesn't stir people's curiosity, drop more or you need a better ghost.
Does the Wound need to be Revealed?
There are stories where the wound that created the lie is never revealed. In Cars, Lightning McQueen wants to be free from depending on other people/cars, but we never discover why. The storytellers decided that it wasn’t essential to the narrative, that the precious screen time was better spent on other things.
It’s possible that because his lie is so common and easy to relate to that the storyteller worried we connect less if they knew the backstory.
Kerry Donavon takes fiction writing as seriously as he did his work with scientific articles. Every verb is weighed and measured, and when the work is done he ensures that someone else gives the manuscript the same scrutiny, so nothing is missed.
In an attempt to expand his reach Kerry submitted to Kindle Scout and we cover all the details of what it means in terms of campaigns, royalties, and rights if your accepted into the program.
In 2009 and I wanted to get back to what I always wanted to do, write fiction, but that’s when I started to really learn how to write fiction. It’s entirely different than any other kind of writing. There is no endto the difference between the two.
I decided I’m too old to be discovered, so I went with self-publishing. Also, I don’t have to wait 18 months to two years for my book to come out.
The best answer to the question all writers get asked: how fast do you write a book. “As fast as I can.”
I found out at 3:00 a.m. that I was accepted into the Kindle Scout program. I was so excited I accidently woke my wife. She thought we were being burgled.
A great example of classic over writing is “John sat down.” You don’t need to write “down” because you only ever “sit up” if you’re already sitting, and slouching.
If you write “John went to the car” grammatically it’s perfectly fine, but dramatically it’s like a slap with a wet sponge. The problem is “went”. It’s dull. It’s one of those vague verbs and you might as well write a yawn in there.
The great strength of the written word is interiority. The ability to get inside of the character’s head. No other medium of storytelling allows for that, there are monologs and voice-overs, but it’s not the same. Only in literature can we see the world the way the character sees it, and Lee Isserow is a master of interiority.
I learned to really develop a plot by working in a writer’s room. We spent a lot of time discussing all the different options for the story, and each character, and now I recreate that in my head to shape a unique and interesting story.
The very deep interiority of the novel is developed by putting a lot of myself into the character.
I love writing novels because with a screenplay there’s an outline, then a treatment, then a synopsis, but with a novel, I can just get the story out.
The first year I was only selling between 2 and 5 books a month, but things have really turned around recently after developing my mailing list, getting on Instafreebie and really interacting with my readers.
A great advantage that movies and films have in storytelling is the soundtrack, the use of music to evoke emotion in the audience. Lee Isserow makes soundtracks for his books.
W. C. Hoffman writes what he knows, the outdoors. His stories are a balance of character and action. They’re fast paced, but still keep the reader feeling like they know the characters, and understand them.
My characters are very real and deep because they are based on real people, their mannerisms, their histories, even some of their names.
One thing that has really helped me develop my dialogue is switching to dictation for my pre-writing.
For marketing “First in series free” has been very good to me. My book didn’t really take off until I finished the third one.
Early on I made the mistake of not having a mailing list when I release my first book and didn’t capture those readers.
The best way to sell your book is to write the next one, and if that takes two years then write a short story that’s connected, or in the same world.
Nathan Goodman started his entire writing career with a single question, a simple “what if …” that has evolved into many stories about Jana Baker, a Special Agent for the FBI and role model for his young daughters.
His stories move at a pace few others can claim, and the stakes are constantly being raised, but I think his true brilliance is his marketing plan for Twitter and Facebook. Learn more in the interview.
I wrote the prequel as a smaller book that I could put at the front of the series, and release for free as a way to bring in new readers. Hopefully, they will read through to the end of series.
One of the tricks I used on twitter was tweeting out other author’s books, and most of them would do the same in turn.
Eventually, I started using a lot of automation software to schedule tweets, and even retweet, because there was just so much to be done.
To help engage people on Twitter, I set up my auto messenger to simply ask “What are you reading right now,” then people realize there’s a person behind that account, and you can start a great conversation.
In some twitter marketing, I ask people if they like a certain author and if so they should check out my book, because a lot of these authors only release one book a year. So, there are a lot of fans who are looking for something else while they wait, and they can find my books.
One of the most effective tools for raising the stakes is a time clock. Every moment it ticks down raises the stakes just a little because failure is that much closer.
Where to Find his Work
Mike Sahno is a literary author who spent seven years on his most recent book, more concerned with its perfection than anything else. He wanted to write something worth reading, something that people would read for many years to come, as he says himself, “No book is ever really finished, it’s abandoned.”
No book is ever really finished. It’s just abandoned. If you want to make a living at this, you have to publish. My books are my babies, and it’s always a hard decision to make.
Mike grew up writing songs and poetry, as a result his prose, word choice and sentences read more like music. Even if literary fiction is not your genre, every writer should read his work to improve their own prose.
I wished I’d worried less when I first started writing. Worry doesn’t help any, and it’s never solved a problem.
Part of my marketing is a lot of blog and article writing, which is very different than novel writing, but as an indie, it’s how I market my book.
Series writers often give away the first book free to get people into the story, but since I don’t write that, I use short stories and even collections of short stories.
"There are times when you can convert an adverb to an action verb, but you'll lose something. Sometimes meaning is more subtly conveyed with the connotation you can only get from an adverb."
I think the hard rule of ‘don’t use adverbs’ is ridiculous. It’s a part of speech. Think about it, how many words in the English language are adverbs, that you can’t use. You must be judicious, but it’s also an important part of language.
Suzannah draws her ideas from both myth, history and biblical sources creating stories that are mythic histories and steeped in Christian theology. She examines deep philosophies in simple fairy tale retellings, going deeper in the theme of stories like Beauty & the Beast than a simple warning about judging a book by its cover. She dives into such ideas as ‘once something is loved it becomes lovable.’
I’d group my work with what’s called ‘Mythic History,' a blend history and myth.
My readers tell me the strongest part of my writing is my characters, and my approach is to see people as good, but a sin has tempted them to do bad things. Regardless of the character I’m writing I think ‘How would I justify this to myself?’
One thing I find difficult to handle is bad world building. I’ve read fantasies about nobles who live in incredible luxury, but there is nothing about the industry needed to support that, no silk weavers, no glass blowers, no farmers. I think how do they live like this if there is no one doing the work.
When picking beta reader, I try to find people who are really picky and hard to please.
As C.S. Lewis put it, we enjoy fantasy and fairy stories because they fill us with a sense of something beyond the world we live in.
Where to Find and her work
We discuss developing writing habits, and how to turn them into cravings, and the importance of learning to write everywhere.
We discuss what flow state is, and how to train yourself to reach it quickly.
There are times when I hate everything I write, and constantly check the clock, but then there are times when it’s like I’m in a dream. I live in the story, and it flows out of me, and I wake up an hour, or sometimes 5 hours later. That is flow state. That is what you want to train your mind to do.
When I first started writing, I felt like if I didn’t have at least 45min, I couldn’t get into the story, and what happened was I only wrote twice a week. But learning to write a novel in 5min a day is not about only writing for 5min. It’s about learning to write at any time and learning to write anywhere.
There are two ways to look at writing in non-optimal environments. You can ask yourself, “Can I write in the subway?” Or you can challenge yourself, “Can I learn to write on the subway.” Once you master that, you can write anywhere, as long as you have your laptop, or just your phone if you do dictation.
Sometimes writing has to be interrupted so you can deal with the rest of your life, and if you’ve learned to reach a flow state, you need to set a timer or you will miss everything.
To create an addiction to writing, pair it with something else in life you crave. For me, it’s Swedish fish, for a long time I didn’t allow myself to buy them because no matter how many I bought that’s how many I’d eat in a day. If I bought a 5 lb. bag, I ate 5 lbs. Once you’ve made that pairing, have a barrier that you can strengthen, so you’re not constantly getting into it.
What is Flow?:
If you're not familiar with the word, it's also called mindfulness, or simply intense focus. The best way to describe what it means is simply to explain my personal experience with it. Sometimes as I write, and I find myself constantly checking the clock for when my next break comes, but other times I can write for hours, and it's like I'm in a dream. I'm in the story; I become each character as they take their place in the spotlight. I cease to notice anything around me, then at some point it ends, and I wake up. That is a flow state. Most of the time it's only for 30min to an hour, but there have been times when I've written for 8 hours in such a states.
Why only 5 min?"
There is a two-fold purpose to learning to write in 5 min increments. The first is to see every 5min as an opportunity to write, 20min before you leave for work? Great, that's 4 times what you need. 10min waiting in a doctor's office? Awesome that's double what you need. The second is that when you write you want to reach flow state as fast as possible. This 5min period then becomes a testing and training ground.
Part of reaching flow is simple practice. There was a time when I wouldn't even attempt writing write unless I had at least 45min because I really wanted to get into the story. What ended up happening is that I didn't write very much.
At 5min increments, you learn to simply write when you have time. All the little chunks of waiting in life can be filled with writing.
Teach Yourself to Write Anywhere
It's also a great opportunity to challenge yourself to see where you can write? Can I write on the subway? Or better yet can you learn to write on the subway? Learning to write in uncommon and un-ideal environments can help you carve out more time for writing. The End-all of this part of the process is so you can say, "All I need to write is my laptop. Nothing else matters, not the time, not the place." And don't forget, all you need for this is 5min at a time.
The next part of the training is finding what can help you reach flow state faster. Humans are hard-wired for habits and rituals. So you can use certain cues to jump start the process. Most writers I know use some type of music. I put in my headphones and hit my writing playlist; it jumps starts the process, suddenly my brain knows it's writing time because it can hear the music. Other sensory processes can be used to jump start this as well, such as smell or taste.
Finally, document your process, when you finish writing. Did you achieve flow or get closer to it? What did you differently that helped you get there? Did you have a hard time getting into the story? What didn't help? [Remember new additions to cues and routines will take a week or so to become contributors, so give them time. Track them daily, but evaluate after a week or two.]
Hard and Soft Timers:
As you begin to reach flow state in your writing, you will write well beyond the 5min mark, and as you work on training yourself, there will be times when the clock never seems to move. That's why I use soft and hard timers.
A soft timer is a stopwatch that makes sure I write for the allotted time before I can get my reward,(part of habit building and maintaining) but I prefer the soft timer because I don't want to be interrupted if I reach a flow state. I just want to keep writing; however, life has certain demands that must be attended to, and that why I use a hard time. This alarm will beep at me, interrupt me, so I can attend a meeting, do an interview or any other demand life has.
The difference between habits and routines
The terms routine and habit are often used interchangeably. One is a group of habits, the other is a single one. So I want to differentiate them right now. Habits are hard to change, we have a craving for them. Gambling, smoking, these are habits. Reward-driven behavior that people crave. A routine is just a pattern in our life and is easy to change with simple motivation.
At the end of the day what you really want is a system. A series of habits or a habit-stack that you constantly evaluate to improve its efficiency.
You Need a Reward
The first step is a reward. Whenever I talk to people about forming habit I always start here because this is what will create the craving. It's also the component most people leave out. I remember talking to a writer who had been working on novel for three years. I asked him about his reward system for writing, and his response was that "writing was its own reward." So I asked him how often he wrote. It was about twice a week. That's when I told him if writing was its own reward he would be doing it every day. He would be late for work because he needed to finish a chapter. As the saying goes "nobody likes writing, we like having written." A good reward is usually something you find yourself actively avoiding because you eat too much of it, do it often, or do it too long. Things that works best, are usually the things you avoid because you find them addicting or you can't control yourself around them very well.
Something you crave
A good reward is usually something you find yourself actively avoiding because you eat too much of it, do it often, or do it too long. Things that works best, are usually the things you avoid because you find them addicting or you can't control yourself around them very well.
For a long time I had a list of certain foods I wasn't allowed to buy, because regardless of how much I bought, I would consume it all in one sitting. If I bought a small bag of Swedish fish. I would eat them all by the end of the day. If I bought a 5lb. bag I would eat them all by the end of the day. So I stopped buying them.
It was only later that I realized I could use this intense craving to motivate almost any behavior. I just needed to find a way to prevent myself from overindulging, so I bought a tool box with a key lock. This serves as the barrier from the reward while the work is getting done. Most of the time the key just sits in a drawer, but on certain days I have to put it in my car. This is strengthening the barrier.
I think the narrative explains the system for the most part but here it is in summary. First, find something you crave. Second, reward the habit you want with it. Third, set up a barrier to keep you from it until you've earned it. Fourth, document how you do each day. Look at where things work well, and where they fall apart, then try to structure habits around that. Once a habit is established expand on it, or stack it. Maybe it just 5min of writing and it gets expanded to 10 and eventually 45min followed 20min of reading a book on writing craft.
Through my own documentation, I found that one of the biggest lulls in my work day came around lunch. I would watch TV while I ate lunch, but when I finished I would keep watching to finish the show. As I looked at this problem I realized that I always craved something sweet after I ate, and I had a lot of Swedish fish in my lockbox. So I wanted to start a new habit. I would reward myself if I stopped watching TV as soon as I finished eating.
The Duration of Human Focus
Focused human attention usually lasts between 20 and 40min. The type of activity, the intensity, and flow state all factor in and can create wide breaths of difference, but most of the time our optimal works in done in this time period and then our brain needs a break.
The amount of time you focus on a task is something you have to develop and find for yourself, and usually, has to factor in deadlines as well. What I want to cover today is the type of break you take in between those periods of productivity.
In the age of the internet, television commercials feel like something of the past. They are trying to make a comeback, but they aren't what they were. During live television, they have regularly scheduled commercial breaks, but if you're really enjoying the show they don't feel like a break, a chance to recover and get ready for the next adrenaline rush. They are frustrating as they often come just when things are getting good. These breaks pay for the show you're watching, but they actually hurt its entertainment value.
Many of the breaks people take during a work project often look very similar. They are breaks from the project but they don't allow people to recover their focus and creativity. These generally come down to checking email, Facebook, and Twitter.
Bigger, but fewer Breaks
Most of the time there isn't much gained by this quick check, but the time they take up in a day slowly starts to add up. A few minutes each hour can start to look like 10min when complied, and over 90min by the end of the day. The thing is that 10min chuck is also a good break time to do something that will relax you and help you recover your focus and attention span.
Break with Intension
To make it work you need to chunk it. I know sometimes when I check Facebook or email I feel like I'm cheating on work, and I'm anxious, knowing I should just get back to work, so it's not relaxing. But if I've scheduled the break then I don't worry. I also tend not to spend it on Facebook, but prefer a book or something from my Youtube cue of funny videos. Something not work related, something to relax my mind so I'm ready to focus again. Simply put 'Break with Intension'. Know what you're going to spend your break on, and pick something you really enjoy, or you will simply wonder back to email and social media, and likely nothing has changed since you checked it last time.